It Will Be Meowvellous

Bali

Sep. 4, 2019

Australian Elizabeth Henzell, from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, is a fixture in Ubud and runs Villa Kitty at Lod Tunduh, although it might be more accurate to say that it runs her, since that’s the way of much charity work in Bali. She would modestly demur, no doubt, at the assertion that she rates any number of gold stars for her energy and dedication, but it’s an incontrovertible fact. Her overcrowded establishment for homeless cats proves that.

It’s far from a thankless task, though it must often seem that it is, and of course funding is a constant battle. It’s made especially difficult because people dump cats – kittens especially – at levels demonstrating epidemic levels of lack of conscience, or leave them at the door, as it were, so they become someone else’s problem, and a charge on someone else’s wallet. The same is true of charities that look after Bali’s deprived dog population.

Henzell last year came up with the idea of staging the ACATemy Awards as a way of raising awareness, raising funds, and rewarding Villa Kitty staff and supporters for their work in the feline interest. The First ACATemy Awards were held in May last year. It was a fun night.

The Second ACATemy Awards are on Friday, Sep. 13, and like the first, at Indus Restaurant in Ubud. Black Friday is an auspicious date for any cat, black or otherwise, and whether or not they are in the company of a witch and/or a broomstick.

For Rp 400,000 at the door (Rp 350,000 if you buy a ticket beforehand) you’ll get a great night out, a welcome drink and canapés, Indus Restaurant’s famed cuisine in two courses for dinner, live entertainment in the shape of guitar music from Renda Pangestu, performance by Cecilia Wong courtesy of the Bali Beach Shack, presentation of the 2019 awards, balloon raffles and dancing to 11pm to music by DJ Tiger and DJ Pantha.

It’s in such a good cause.

And as Henzell puts it: “Our staff deserve a night a year to recognise their work and just for fun. Boy do we need a bit of fun!”

Meow to that!

The Doolally Squad

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

 

IT’S hard to know what to write about the Surabaya bombings. Doubtless there are those who would advise against writing anything about them. But that won’t do. Perhaps we could start by saying that at least the suicide bombers did everyone a favour by exiting the gene pool. It’s a shame hell doesn’t exist except as a human notion. They’d look good rotting there forever.

There are, however, some practical things worth noting about the events of the past week in East Java and elsewhere. First, let’s consider this: it is all but impossible to live a secluded, unnoticed life in Indonesia, the more so within the majority Muslim community, where the mosque is not only the prayer room but also the community centre and the focal point of guidance. The archipelago is in any case communal by cultural history, social preference and force of habit. In Surabaya, someone must have worked out that the mad father and mother of the sacrificial children seemed a bit bent, if not actually murderously doolally. Perhaps they decided it would be better, or safer, not to have worked that out, and that if the local prayer leader wanted to do so, he would; there’s a sort of communal blindness too. The substantial cache of pipe bombs found after the church attacks would have been difficult to pass off as spare motorbike mufflers, even to the thickest of casual observers. Did anyone say anything, to anyone? If they did, to whom was it said?

The second thing to be said is that the police did a good job after the events, both in Surabaya and in Pekenbaru, though clearly more needs to be done in the intelligence gathering area by both the police and the national intelligence body. A good rule of engagement for any police is one that states that if you see a terrorist, shoot him dead instantly, or her, since it seems women are taking up the profession of mass murder. Going some way back to Densus 88’s previous tactics, as has now been authorised, is also a sensible protective measure. There’s an argument too for reviving the military’s tri-service special forces, also now under way, though they should stay out of it unless the situation is truly dire. Densus 88 is the best policing anti-terrorist tool in the kit.

The third, and most important, thing to say is that Indonesia should not allow itself to be spooked by terrorism into retreating from the democratic norms that it has courageously and progressively put in place since the Suharto era. It shouldn’t worry, either, about the longer-term effects on tourism of an uptick in terrorist activity ahead of next year’s presidential election. There may be short-term dip, primarily in western source markets. Leaders, especially in Bali, need to develop a responsive and responsible narrative on that front.

Taking Fire

AN old friend, Ross Eastgate, a former Australian army officer who now writes (in Australia) on military issues, got into trouble for a column he wrote after the Israeli army employed snipers to pick off selected targets on the “front line” between Israel and Gaza. As he noted, snipers are legitimate military assets when they are used to target enemy military personnel (or important insurrectionists or terrorists). Using them against a crowd of protesters chiefly armed with slingshots, whether or not they have been organised by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist outfit, is not. It’s a war crime, plain and simple.

Hamas in Gaza took advantage of the Trump decision to shift the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to drum up more anti-Israeli action. Given the conditions that exist in Gaza under Hamas’s control, we can safely assume that the interests of the common people there are not its primary concern. But the modern State of Israel, originally the product of a European Jewish plantation in the Levant two millennia after the Romans threw them out, has a duty to abide by international law. It’s a legal state and it must behave lawfully, particularly if it proclaims its democratic credentials.

The trouble is, the global Israel lobby has turned into an art form the idea that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism. It isn’t.

A Lovely Man

WE left Queensland 13 years ago and headed to the west coast. Not in the Billy Joel sense. We’re not doing a stand-up routine in LA. Who’d bother in Perth anyway? And we retain east coast connections and lots of old friends, some of whom come to see us from time to time, though that’s in Bali, our Fat Controller-proof bolthole.

Sadly, we lost another of our old friends recently, former Queensland treasurer and Labor Party strongman Terry Mackenroth. He died, far too early, and unexpectedly, soon after the lung cancer that he’d beaten 20 years ago had been diagnosed again. They gave him a state funeral (in non-Toff Australia that’s without the trinkets and baubles). It would have been good to be there (it was in Brisbane on May 8) but like so many things these days that was not to be.

Mackenroth was a hard-fighting politician but straight as a die. If he said he’d do something, you knew he’d do it. If he said he wouldn’t, all you could do was shut your briefcase and go away. He was also a very lovely man.

When people leave us, we pause for thought. There are always anecdotes that spring to mind. They can be a comfort. After he saw off his first bout of the Big C two decades ago he got into the annual shave heads for cancer fundraising effort. At that time, for his sins, Hector’s amanuensis was working in politics, having given up on Rupert Murdoch. It was the opposite side of politics from Mackenroth’s.

The annual tribute visit to the minister’s parliamentary office, to deposit that year’s personal contribution to the razor gang, was always a treat. We’d stay for a brief chat and then return to our own quarters. The funny looks and pursed lips of our own little troupe of flacks when we got back from enemy territory were fun to observe.

Name Games

THERE’S another of those curious Facebook-focused phishing exercises going around at the moment. It purports to list the 20 people most important to you. That’s on Facebook, of course, which isn’t real life at all and your best friends (who are also your worst enemies) are actually those two chaps called Cursor and Autocorrect.

We’re very happy that we haven’t appeared on anyone’s virtual nearest and dearest list. At least, we hadn’t when we last checked. To appear on one would bring to mind Groucho Marx’s sensible injunction against joining any club that would see fit to invite him.

Big Wedding

SINCE we were in Bali, where big weddings are all the go, we felt no pain in missing out on that other sizeable celebration in Windsor, U.K. Well, we wouldn’t have anyway, but let’s not spoil a good story.

On Friday evening we were at the Nusa Dua nuptials of a couple whose connections, from our perspective, are some lovely friends we’ve known for years. Nyoman Sueta is a community leader in Nusa Dua and his wife Made Siri is too. She also makes fabulous pancakes.

We ran into other old friends there, Made Winarsa – who is now sommelier at the St Regis Bali – and his wife Ayu Trisna, whose hospitality records run right back to the Conrad Bali years ago and both of whom we’ve known since they were students. There were lots of speeches – it helped that they were all in Balinese and Indonesian of course – and between times, opportunities to chat.

The setting was Peninsula Island, which will be familiar to many Australian and other visitors. It didn’t rain (it’s the dry season now) and the south-easterly breeze from the ocean was pleasantly cool.

It was a great night all round, and it was an honour to be present. We had our photo taken with the bride and groom, an obligatory thing. Possibly we jumped the queue for that. But nobody seemed to mind.

MEOWvellous

IT’S without question the purrfect way to spend a Saturday evening in Ubud. There will be no yoga, for one thing. The occasion is the inaugural Villa Kitty ACATemy Awards, an invitation only soiree at Indus Restaurant. It’s on May 26.

Elizabeth Henzell, hostess with the mostest on the night and the inspiration for Villa Kitty, tells us we should be dressed up as much as we like and be prepared to dance the night away. Yes, um. Good. Make mine tonic water with ice so it looks like a G&T (an old trick from our flack days).

Villa Kitty does marvellous work for Bali’s feline community and is worth support every time. Its sponsors are great people.

Elizabeth recently lost Maya, the light of her life. She arrived six years ago as a hairless waif and became a silken black tortoiseshell with the love and proper food and care she found with Elizabeth, along with the 10 other cats who shared her domain. She had a good life and was loved. There’s nothing to beat that.

Chin-chin!

That Other Kuta

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Lombok / Bali

Oct. 26, 2016

 

IT’S quieter and rather less crowded than Kuta Bali, though it has grown a little. There’s something that resembles a main street with an Indomaret supermarket and a few other junior emporiums. The warungs along the beach, those symbols of entry-level Indonesian tourism entrepreneurship, where once you could sit and watch the waves over a cold beer, have been cleared away in the future interests of the rather grand Mandalika development. But Kuta Lombok is great at the moment if you’re not looking for crowded bars packed with people out for a good time.

We weren’t when we spent a lovely week there earlier this month. It’s been a favourite place for a decade and a half, since we first stayed at the then nearly new Novotel Lombok in 2001 on a side trip from Bali. We’ve made a point of returning now and then, when we need some down time.

So, we did basically nothing except sit on the Novotel’s pristine beach in a berugak – think balé (gazebo) – watching the tide coming in or going out and occasionally dipping in for a float. Except we ate, rather more than is our custom, but that was nice too because as part of the Accor chain the Novotel does alimentary things in a delightfully semi-French fashion. It was so good that the Diary didn’t even really mind that the Wi-Fi struggled to reach the beach. The fruit sate sticks for elevenses and the mid-afternoon cakes got there.

In the rooms and the rest of the resort the Wi-Fi’s fine. That modern hazard – being obstructed by off-in-fairyland wanderers holding their smart phones and staring at them – must be dealt with. Just learn the words for “excuse me” in, say, 10 of the most widely spoken languages among Novotel guests, and you’ll generally get by; even if it’s sometimes tempting to use the full suite all at once.

Our morning walk program was a talking point. As in Bali, no one walks anywhere. They hop on their scooters to idle 50 metres up the road. Walking for recreation or in the interests of the arteries appears to be something only mad bules do. Several times lovely people even suggested that perhaps we were jogging.

We dropped in on Senggigi – after Cakranegara for fabric shopping – before the R&R in the south, and had dinner with local identity Peter Duncan and his wife Wiwik Pusparini at Taman restaurant, and stayed overnight in a nice room at Howard Singleton’s beachside establishment The Office, at the Art Market.

Hurry Up and Wait

Our return from Lombok was not without misadventure. We’d flown to Lombok with Wings and that went swimmingly, even if it did include the usual diddling about doing circles over the Wallace Line to make the flight worth making, or perhaps longer. We flew back with Lion, a little tardily, for very late-advised “operational reasons”, that class of excuse that brooks no inquiry. Just to add pedas (spicy) to panas (hot), first we were to fly only three hours late, and then it turned out to be nearly five.

Flight delays were not confined to Lion Air. They resulted from regular closure of Ngurah Rai to all except emergency landings for evenings from Oct. 2 to Dec. 26, as notified by international aviation regulators. The runway needs a bit of work and this is being done, if the contractors bother to turn up. The point is, surely, that since this is a lengthy term of mandatory closure, airlines should have adjusted their schedules accordingly. Well, never mind. This is Indonesia. Once, long ago when Lombok’s airport was still at Selaparang in Mataram, we were also delayed, though not for quite so long, by an apparently unforeseen event at Ngurah Rai. They told us then that the president was on the runway.

Lion had been on our personal No Fly paper since 2013, when the flight crew on one of its Boeing 737-800s selected a dubious preference for the briny over the somewhat firmer properties of tar-macadam and landed in Jimbaran Bay instead.

We think the airline has since then secured the services of flight crews equipped to recognise runways and understand their benefits and who will remember to adjust autopilot parameters in time. But on this occasion it would have been tempting to swim home.

So Sad

The deaths of nine people – three of them children – in the collapse of the suspension bridge linking Nusa Lembongan with its smaller sister island, Ceningan, on Oct. 16 are tragic. What’s also tragic is the sequence of events leading up to the deadly occurrence.

Duty of care is not a term – or a principle for that matter – that resonates in Indonesia. The islands are in Klungkung regency (as is the larger island of Nusa Penida) but the district government’s divan is in Semarapura (also called Klungkung) on Bali’s mainland, where it apparently relies on karma to run things.

It was Full Moon, a sacred time for Balinese Hindus. A large devotional procession was crossing the bridge when its cables snapped and the walkway collapsed into the narrow channel that separates the islands. A sign warning that the bridge was unsafe for large numbers of people at one time had been put up two days beforehand. Either this was not read, or it was read and ignored, as most such notices are.

But if the bridge was unsafe in overloaded conditions – and plainly it was: cables rarely snap without provocation – then the authorities should have ensured it wasn’t overloaded. Bali’s traditional system of village guards (Pecalang) is ideally equipped to manage crowds and ensure compliance. They don’t miss a trick at Nyepi: show a light for an instant after dark on Silent Day and you’re cactus.

Some lateral thinking – actually, any thinking – by the regency government appears to be rather desperately needed. The bridge collapsed once before, in Feb. 2013, in a bit of a fresh breeze.

An appeal was launched in Australia to raise funds to help the victims of the collapse.

One Word, Seven Letters, Starts with ‘B’

Elizabeth Henzell of Villa Kitty wrote a dispiriting note on her Facebook on Oct. 16. It speaks for itself so here it is:

“I am so disgusted with humans that feel their need is more than someone else’s! How do they know! Villa Kitty’s tireless admin assistant, Metha, has had her Samsung phone stolen – from Villa Kitty! Who would do that? Who would steal from (a) a yayasan/animal welfare centre or (b) someone who works for a yayasan/animal welfare centre! We have had food stolen, my phone has been stolen, money stolen, medical supplies, by people with NO morals! I am truly sick of it!”

We’re all sick of it, Elizabeth. It’s that other real Bali, the one that doesn’t rate a mention in the feel good fluff stuff.

Happy Snapper

Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey, whose faces, sunsets and skyscapes particularly engage The Diary, won deserved acclaim – and 20 per cent of sale prices for the charity Solemen Indonesia – at the opening night of his exhibition Life in Bali, at Bridges in Ubud on Oct. 15.

It was a packed house for the event, he tells us. It’s such a shame we weren’t there. The marathon seven-hour return wait-and-flight to Bali from Lombok the previous evening did terrible things to the schedule at The Cage. Johnsey notes:

“What a great opening event. A packed house. Thank you all at Bridges for making it such a great success. Life In Bali is off to a pretty good start.”

His photographic works are on display at Bridges, so if you’re in Ubud get along there and have a look. It’ll be worth it, we guarantee. We’ll drop in ourselves this week, while we’re in Ubud on literary matters.

Lash Out

Those who apparently desire that Indonesia should become Untustan (untu is camel in Bahasa Indonesia) have been having a field day lately. Aside from public canings for promiscuity and other elective activity defined as sinful in Aceh – caning is a legitimate penalty under Aceh’s Sharia law – Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been the target of mobs over his alleged blasphemy against Islam. Blasphemy is an offence under Indonesian law.

The governor, usually known by his Indonesian familiar name Ahok, isn’t a Muslim. He’s a Christian, a Chinese Indonesian, and appears to be doing quite a good job as civic leader of Indonesia’s capital city. There’s more socio-political polemic than inter-religious dispute in his current problems.

A quatrain by the mediaeval Islamic scholar Omar Khayyám comes to mind: “As far as you can avoid it, do not give grief to anyone. Never inflict your rage on another. If you hope for eternal rest, feel the pain yourself; but don’t hurt others.” It’s a shame that this useful aide-memoire is never handed out to the mobs along with the nasi bunkus (wrapped rice).

Last Word

The 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival starts today (Oct. 26) and runs to Oct. 30. Hindu obsequies for the late Made Wijaya (Michael Richard White) will be held at Sanur on Nov. 9.

HectorR

Hector’s Dairy is published in the on line and print editions of the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

They’re a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali

Aug. 17, 2016

 

If the acquisitive cartel of private interests and public officials that really runs Bali wants to turn the island into Disneyland, it must be conceded (through gritted teeth) that they can. The electoral check on such excess is even more notional here than in other more functional democracies.

We’ve seen in the proposal to bury Benoa Bay under masses of defective concrete and frightful architectural kitsch and turn it into Port Excrescence (a project of PT I’m Gonna Make a Motza) that the environment runs a poor second to the heady thrill of grubbing out another zillion rupiahs. We’ve seen too that the considered consensus views of the villages and banjars that are protesting mean absolutely nothing; at least so far.

Ditto with the despoliation of the reef and surf line in the vicinity of the new Kempinski and Ritz-Carlton hotels under construction on the southern Bukit. There, some curious alchemy conjured up a very dodgy bit of paper featuring a magic official signature.

We now hear, via the Bali Post newspaper, a particularly vacuous thought bubble from the head of the Buleleng chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), a gentleman by the name of Dewa Suardipa. He would like to see dolphin cages built in the sea off Lovina so as to “optimise” (as Jack Daniels’ Bali Update reports from the Post on Aug. 8) the attractiveness of dolphin tours promoted to tourists visiting North Bali.

Perhaps these disgraceful prisons for highly intelligent sea creatures could be built near that other future-planner’s delight, the proposed offshore North Bali airport. (We do wonder whether they’ve thought about tsunami barriers, not to mention whether they’d work, but that’s another topic.) That way the hordes of gawkers they would like to attract to see the pernicious results of extraordinary rendition in yet another guise wouldn’t ever actually have to set foot in the real Bali.

They wouldn’t have to interact either with the local boatmen who at present make a modest income from taking small parties of tourists out to see the dolphins in their natural habitat. Maybe these dispossessed persons could be armed with gaff hooks and employed to whistle at the captive dolphins and wave fish at them; by this means, according to Pak Dewa of the Buleleng PHRI, the poor creatures (the dolphins, we mean) could be trained to perform on demand and would soon learn not to be distressed or depressed.

Hey, they could co-opt the deprived dolphins from that sick excuse for an attraction at Keremas to give them lessons. Oh no, that wouldn’t work. They’re still depressed, poor things. How can that be? They get fed fish and can see the sea if they breast the edge of their swimming pool for a wistful look at their home.

It’s so often an Edvard Munche Day in Bali. You know, when you just have to let out a manic scream.

Saurian Point

While we’re on the topic of potty ideas, something from Kupang in Indonesian Timor blipped the radar recently. Crocodiles have presented themselves as a problem for the capital of East Nusa Tenggara. They’ve apparently been doing so since 2011, but it takes a little time for officialdom to notice these things.

Saltwater crocs are endemic to the area, though they seem to have stayed decorously out of sight until five years ago, when suddenly they started eating people. I say, chaps, that’s poor form!

In the Australian city of Darwin, 800 kilometres away to the southeast, the city authorities have built fences behind the popular beach area so that sunbathers and other playful types can lie around in peace, or play ball or whatever, without the statistical risk of being grabbed by a leg and dragged away for an unwanted death roll. In Kupang, the solution is not infrastructure. It’s a croc-capturing competition. The current score-line is Crocs 19 People 0 and the city fathers would like to even things up.

This we learned from a story by Jewel Topsfield, the Fairfax group correspondent in Jakarta, and Amilia Rosa, that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax papers in Australia. We silently thanked them when we read the yarn. It’s so nice to get a chortle with your morning cuppa.

The competition, with prize money of Rp5 million per capture, was set to start after Independence Day. We’ll watch that score-line carefully.

Direct Aid

Elizabeth Henzell, who is among the nicest people we know, had a lovely story to tell the other day. She’s not exactly flush with funds. Who is these days, except a Jakarta tycoon? But she does recognise, as many do, that even the poorest expatriate lives better and has more than most Balinese. So she helps beggars, those people (the ones from Karangasem are in the Governor’s sights at the moment as unwanted elements of his preferred touristic streetscape) who wander the streets of Ubud in search of money so they can eat.

On her way through to Villa Kitty at Lodtunduh – which is where her money goes, the NGO being as short of funds as most in the animal welfare area – she made a stop as she often does at the Pertamina petrol station on Jl. Raya Pengosetan. Instead of just handing out money to the little “family” she helps, a “mother” and several children, this time she asked what they’d like to eat. It was something very modest from the food stall just across the street. She took them there and bought them a meal. It would have cost more to have coffee at Starbucks.

Hunger is a pervasive distemper. It saps energy and in the end intellect too. A full tummy is a wonderful tonic. Henzell said of the evening in question: “This was at 9.30pm last night. They were so hungry. I left four children and a very tired mother all sitting in a little circle eating their Bakso. All for Rp 68,000, but who will feed them tomorrow?”

Hopefully someone will have done so. For the moment, we just say this: Elizabeth, we love you.

Truck Off

We hear that at long last the authorities in Bangli regency have cracked down on the profitable extraction of lava gravel in the Lake Batur basin and told the trucks that make a menace of themselves on the narrow roads up and down the mountain to cease and desist. They haven’t, quite, we understand. No surprises there. But the traffic has reduced.

Apparently this late accession to something notionally resembling sound principles of environmental protection followed a word from the UN to the effect that the prized Batur Geo Park would not be goer without an end to extractive vandalism.

One day, perhaps, the island’s authorities will work out that Bali’s environment actually is precious and not just a PR pitch. And that returning it to something resembling nature and – where this is no longer possible – a state of cleanliness means doing something more than just proclaiming the aim of being Clean and Green.

It’s green at the moment, because the dry season is being damp, courtesy of La Niña, and at first glance it’s clean – in parts – because the leafy glades hide all the garbage that at this time of year would normally lie revealed in all its noisome horror.

Sad Departure

Our paths never crossed – we walked a different beat – but Joe Kennedy was a Name, a master of his craft of photography, and that he is now no longer with us is a tragedy. He’d had a motorcycle accident on Jul. 29 and had suffered mild concussion and broken ribs, but was recovering well and was expecting to be discharged from Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar when a sudden and quite unexpected heart attack carried him off on Aug. 4. This was three days short of his 57th birthday. That’s far too young.

Kennedy was born in Northern Ireland and worked in the oil industry for nearly a quarter of a century before starting a new career as a professional photographer in 2004. He set up Joe Kennedy Photography in 2006 and quickly established himself as a snapper of choice.

His funeral was at the Yasa Setra Mandala Crematorium at Taman Mumbul on Aug. 9. Friends held a wake for him afterwards at Villa Ramadewa in Seminyak.

Flag This

It’s Independence Day (Aug. 7) and we should mark this. A nation’s birthday is always important. Indonesia’s is especially so to the Diary, because it is a wonderful country and because we are almost of an age. (Indonesia Raya is slightly younger.)

The Merah Putih flies at The Cage once a year, for two weeks: the week prior and the week after the big day. It does this from a bamboo pole stuck into a bit of PVC piping nailed precariously to the outside wall of our balé. It is mirrored prettily in our little swimming pool and looks lovely when it’s fluttering in the Bukit breeze.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser.

Something’s Missing

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 3, 2016

Young Australians and alcohol have a habit of not mixing very well. It’s a part of the national kaleidoscope that fractures the preferred public image of the land down under and reveals the reality of Australia today. It’s not only the blokes, though it seems to be mostly them, perhaps a tedious product of the testosterone to brain imbalance that marks certain kinds of young men everywhere. Young women on a blinder are an ugly sight as well.

It’s not just an Australian problem, though that’s the bit of it that’s most visible in Bali. It is a Western or Western-influenced phenomenon, fuelled by relative wealth – relatively, that is, against global means – and these societies’ inability or unwillingness to insist on individual common sense, or to instil a sense that obligation is the necessary obverse of entitlement. You don’t have to be a reactionary neo-con to press that point. Karl Marx puts it nicely.

Hedonism as such is valuable, since it reflects the fact that all life is not necessarily solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short in the Hobbesian sense. There’s nothing wrong with having fun. But you do need a functioning conscience and a degree of social awareness to enjoy yourself sensibly; and as we too frequently see, these attributes are often missing in those infantile idiots who come to notice.

We are all apt to be foolish at times, particularly when not fully formed. There’s a week in London in 1965, for example, that your diarist simply has never been able to remember, though it certainly didn’t involve brawling on a plane. But even unremembered, it is a continuing once-only lesson. It’s better not to be a bloody idiot.

There was an altercation on a Jetstar flight from Australia to Phuket in Thailand recently. It was one of such blind stupidity that the aircraft captain felt compelled to divert his flight to Bali, where the miscreants were offloaded and handed over to the authorities.

One of this dopey collective later told his friends on Facebook of the events, in a way that clearly showed he hadn’t learned a thing from the booze-fuelled affray, which even if not a participant he had failed to stop. He possibly doesn’t know what contrition is and probably couldn’t spell the word anyway. It was a lol, he said, that they’d been taken off the plane at Ngurah Rai at gunpoint. Yair, mate, lots of laughs! Did your conscience prick you over the expense and inconvenience you caused? Nah; didn’t think so.

Come back and see Bali properly when you and your friends have grown up. That’s if you ever do.

Meowvellous

Villa Kitty at Lodtundah near Ubud is Rp35 million better off – essential funds needed to refurbish the premises – after a very successful benefit night on Jul. 21. That’s good news. Elizabeth Henzell at VK does a great job in a much-needed area of animal welfare. Villa Kitty is now just Rp10 million short of the total it needs to complete its refurbishment.

By all accounts it was a great night at Indus, the Janet DeNeefe eatery with the great view of the green spaces around Ubud. The night was marked by the first appearance in Ubud of chief VK benefactor Robert Elliot, who has been funding the NGO from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast since 2009. He got a loud collective purr for his presence.

Villa Kitty’s Facebook page has the full honours list from the night, but we’d like to especially mention Marta Valbuena, who not only donates a percentage of sales of her designer clothes – the girls say they’re fabulous – to Villa Kitty but is also frequently seen around Ubud on her motorbike on street feeding missions for needy dogs and cats. These days she rescues kittens as well as puppies.

Henzell has had extra volunteer support recently, which also bears mention as an example of people’s kindness. She tells us a young woman named Nancy appeared out of the blue one day and asked if she could help. She then spent three days doing just that. Henzell notes: “It was so much fun to have someone to chat to in my ‘office’.”

Regular VK supporter Lyn Dargan has made a new range of Villa Kitty T-shirts, by the way. They’re available at Villa Kitty.

SMILES

Above: One of the images in Michael Johnsey’s photographic exhibition at Odd, Canggu

Time Traveller

It used to be said that photographs never lie. This was never the case, of course; it was merely another example of the multitude of ways humans can find to fool themselves or others. The point at the time was that while words may be crafted to obscure truth, and frequently are, a photograph is as close to the actuality of something as it is possible to get.

Then along came Photoshop and other means of altering digital data. Two digits instantly went up to veracity. Don’t believe everything you read (or by extension see) on the Internet, as several funny memes claim Abraham Lincoln once advised. From this we must presume he did so only some time after his fatal meeting with the actor John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington on the night of Apr. 15, 1865. We must assume further, one supposes, that there is an afterlife in which the dearly departed actually bother about us at all. That is something that requires additional suspension of belief. But no matter: all that’s for many more millennia of debate; or, perhaps, the return of the prodigal souls.

On a more immediate and essentially temporal level, it is said that Bali is a place of vastly different parallel realities. This is certainly true. There is the “real Bali”, which tourists and enthusiasts are invited to explore among the peasants of the rice fields and woodlands. If in the party crowd in another “real Bali” – the party Bali – there are individuals who care, the ancient rites of Balinese Hinduism can still be experienced in the traditional villages and banjars of the overrun south.

There’s a third “real Bali”. That’s the real Bali of developers and their publicly employed facilitators, that acquisitive cabal whose privileged and protected members will bend any rule they can’t just ignore so that like Ozymandias they can put up things that the elements and deficient engineering will then destroy. Though in Bali this tends to take rather less time than monumental self-statuary in the Egyptian desert would consider anywhere near acceptable.

Happily, there are opportunities to escape from immediate reality, even if only temporarily, and to immerse oneself in the art and skill of photographers whose craft permits them to magically capture moments in time. There are many such moments in Bali and some of these have been depicted in the work of Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey.

He has an exhibition at Odd, a gallery in Canggu. It’s titled Moments, opened on Jul. 29, and runs through to Aug. 11. Johnsey says that photographs are not only images but also soulful. They capture the moment and invite reflection on all manner of things. The works are stunning. Do get along to the show if you can.

Best Practice

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua, which in October 2014 won international accreditation from the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International, has just passed (with flying colours) its mandatory periodic review by the ACHSI. When it won initial endorsement two years ago it was one of only two hospitals in Southeast Asia to hold that status, and the only one in Indonesia.

In the latest review, done by the ACHS’s assessors, Dr Maria Strickland and Professor Marc Tennant, the hospital achieved “mastery” level from the initial survey. The review is an on-site analysis and survey aimed at maintaining the accreditation standards for continuous improvement in quality, safety and service. The ACHSI provides a range of accreditation services applying to the specific needs of each organization, using internationally recognized standards that are focused on key health care attributes.

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards is recognized as the leading health care accreditation body in Australia and now provides an overseas quality healthcare accreditation program through ACHSI, which was established in 2005.

We Break a Rule

Back in the old, dim, distant days, when self-promotion was viewed as vulgar, journalists wrote about the news rather than insisting on being part of it, and editors’ names were hardly never known and, if they were, were almost never mentioned, an event such as this might never have occurred.

We make an additional appearance in the Aug. 3 edition of the Bali Advertiser, in the excellent Siapa column, where locally based persons judged to be of interest appear and answer questions about their life and times. It is Hector’s first such outing in half a century of scribbling. He generally prefers the quiet calm of The Cage and almost always insists on someone placing his nighty-night cloth over it when anything resembling limelight is judged an imminent risk.

HectorR Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 20, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Trash Can be Beautiful

A month or so back we dropped in on a Green Drinks meeting in Ubud organized by organic food guru and long-time Ubud luminary Darsih Gede. It was an interesting and inspiring occasion. The presentation was on the then forthcoming Bali Creative Reuse Centre and its plans to engage children, their parents and their communities in finding innovative ways to recycle trash.

The centre opened in late July (it’s at Jl Bisma 53). Its goal is to collect waste from local businesses, schools and families and package these in activity kits or sold in bulk to teachers and families. The message is that trash is a valuable resource to reuse for art and as learning materials.

That message is being delivered by Eka, a local teacher who is running the centre, and American volunteer Renee. The centre supports local Indonesian artists and organizations with workshops on the artistic and practical value of recycled trash and acts as a resource centre. It supports local schools and community programs offering arts programs reusing their trash and helping them find resources to support environmentally safer ways to dispose of their waste.

A website is being developed. They have also just finished their first teacher workshop at Dyatmika and are designing a recycled materials space for them.  The aim is for this to become a model to replicate in other schools and villages to promote creativity and inspiration to use trash as a medium to produce useful products and eye-catching art.

Eka has augmented her teacher qualifications by training at the Bali Environmental Training Centre (PPLH) in Denpasar and is teaching children in villages to use plastic for weaving and crocheting to make bags and other functional products they can sell.  She has also met Bali Recycling to inform local villagers about ways they can recycle and get money for their trash.

An open day is planned for Sep. 7. This would be a great opportunity for all segments of the community to have a look at the innovative programs the centre offers. Trash is everyone’s business, after all.

It would be good to see other not-for-profit organizations in Ubud getting aboard this great civic and educational initiative. There’s nothing to beat cooperative engagement.

 

In General, Not a Good Idea

Former General Prabowo Subianto has made a bit of a mess of losing the presidential election. It seems that everyone other than himself is to blame for the fact that he failed to win the support of more Indonesians than his opponent, president-elect Joko Widodo.

Perhaps on Aug. 17, Independence Day, he might have found time to reflect on reality. In a democratic election the candidate who wins most votes is elected. Prabowo either can’t add up or doesn’t want to. It’s not as if he was beaten narrowly. The margin was wide enough to make a declaration of a result beyond the reach of anything other than a most inventive challenge.

Independence Day celebrates Indonesia’s nationhood and the 69 years of history that now stands on the record. Prabowo played a small part in some of that history, as a military man. He’s entitled to run for civil office. He’s not entitled to claim he was robbed of a victory that he plainly didn’t win. Civil society and democratic elections do not run on a military command basis.

He can try again next time, if he wants. A sensible appreciation of Indonesian politics and the voting figures this time shows clearly that Joko Widodo will have to accommodate a spectrum of views and policy positions, including those espoused by Prabowo’s party, which says it seeks a greater Indonesia.

That’s practical democracy. It is also the Indonesian way. It’s just not a good idea to ignore facts, even if (actually, especially if) you’re a retired general who was drummed out of the army under a cloud.

 

We Are Not Amused

American Bali muse Susi Johnston, who lives at Mengwi in a villa someone else has been trying to seize for their own enrichment, is in more trouble. This time someone has poisoned her pet dog and beloved cat in – on the evidence she presents – a carefully planned and deliberate manner. It might just be a case of VBS – Vindictive Bastard Syndrome, which like dengue and a lot of other avoidable endemic disorders is widespread in Bali – but given the history of her case that seems unlikely.

There are several aspects of her situation that are profoundly disturbing. They are worrisome for other long-term expatriate residents who contribute to the wider life of the island and whose presence directly benefits the Balinese and other Indonesians they pay or otherwise support.

Johnston has endured a lengthy campaign to remove her from the villa she shared with her Italian husband Bruno Piazza, who died in 2011 and whose name was on the nominee agreement. It has involved threats, break-ins and raids by thugs on the premises; detention by police pending “investigations”; a court process that has been stymied at every turn; and sundry other molestations that only the truly mean-spirited or graspingly acquisitive would visit on a widow. She assumes, with what seems to be good reason, that the pet poisoning is the latest incident in this lengthy round of bastardry.

In such circumstances the fainter of heart might simply mutter “this is not to be borne” and move someplace else where the rule of law, the principles of basic justice and common sense apply. But Johnston’s not a quitter. Bali is where she has made her life. The “system”, such as it is, should recognize that.

 

Revealing Fatwa

The roving eye was caught the other day by news that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa against women teaming the jilbab with “tight” clothing below the neck. Apparently its fatwa proscribing pornography (as defined by Islamic leaders) also means Muslim women should not show the shape of the body.

It’s true – as we’ve noted before – that some of the more excessive revelations made possible by modern western fashions are over the top. It’s not quite clear how or why painted-on jeans and bust-enhancing tops are pornographic, though we concede they must be dreadfully uncomfortable to wear.

Modern Islamic fashion for women is in its own way highly decorative, and that’s good. Seeing women primarily as sexual objects is a male disease, a genetic disposition that should have dropped off the scope very shortly after Urk, Gurk and the crew vacated their cave dwellings and got a bit civilized. It’s a shame that it hasn’t.

We agree with the vice-chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf Amin, that women already choosing to wear the jilbab should not do so in a vulgar way. Vulgarity of any kind is offensive, after all; including the vulgarity of presuming rights to proscribe the elective and legal behaviour of others.

 

Blush Highlights

Sydney jazz singer and Villa Kitty ambassador Edwina Blush is back in Bali for her annual season of swingalongs. Through to September she’s playing the Three Monkeys Restaurant at Sanur between 6pm and 9pm every Tuesday and Sunday with her cool Blush Sextet (Yuri Mahatma on guitar,  Astrid Sulaiman on keys, Helmi Augustrian on bass, Pramono Abdi and sax and newcomer Wisnu Priambodo on drums; and Thursdays at Il Giardino in Ubud with the trio (7.30pm to 10pm).

Blush arrived in July with a program including four different combos and three different variations on a Jazz theme Classic Jazz, 20’s Swing and SkaJazz. Good stuff!

In her Villa Kitty hat she’ll have been pleased to see that Elizabeth Henzell’s Ubud establishment featured on the Australian TV series What Really Happens in Bali.

 

New Deal, Old System

The new management at Ngurah Rai International Airport has put a stop to the “VIP arrival services” that permit those unwilling to mix with the masses in the Visa on Arrival melee to pay to be fast-tracked around the bottleneck. Experience and an understanding of how things really work here suggest that normal service will be resumed shortly, if it hasn’t already.

If the new management is really interested in improving customer service at the airport it might like to look at a system that rosters porters (and provides luggage trolleys) when they’re needed and not simply at the porters’ convenience. We’re told by a traveller that mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 9, neither porters nor trolleys were available in the arrivals hall.

Then there’s the piratical taxi monopoly. That warrants managerial examination too.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 25, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Christmas Sale Bargain

BIMC has been a fixture at the high end of the medical and hospital sector in Bali for 15 years, the benchmark place for services available to everyone but predominantly accessed by foreign tourists, long-term foreign residents and well-heeled Indonesians.

So the slightly skewed pre-Christmas reports that it had been bought by Siloam, the Indonesian hospital chain that is a more recent arrival in Bali, might have rippled a few affogatos. Bali is Gossip Central, after all, where those who spend their time counting white elephants assume that everyone else is in the same game-park. This is an island where unfounded rumour immediately becomes long-established fact. Indeed this often happens before the rumour has even been voiced.

In fact (don’t you love that expression?) the news is rather more positive. We had another affogato on the strength of it and far from being shaken, it was not even stirred. Lippo Group, which owns Siloam, bought BIMC in a plan to create synergies in the hospital and health care sector. BIMC and Siloam will retain their own branding and continue to pursue their present market focus. BIMC Nusa Dua is focused on medical tourism, a growing element in global travel.

BIMC chief Craig Beveridge will be executive chairman in Bali. He tells us Lippo chairman James Riady is excited by the deal and passionate in his vision to broaden the reach of international standard hospital and medical services here and in the rest of Indonesia, with new medical facilities already in the pipeline in Bali.

There will be more to report in the New Year, when Beveridge gets back from Christmas down under. That LinkedIn post we saw earlier in December urgently seeking new executives for BIMC cannot have been what it might have seemed to those in the rumour mill.

 

Gone to the Dogs

The dexterity demonstrated in the consummate skill with which people here can shoot themselves in the foot while poking themselves in the eye with sharp sticks and cutting off their noses to spite their faces is legendary. It’s so good that the authorities should probably promote bribe-watching as a tourist attraction. You could even do it on rainy days.

We refer chiefly to the bureaucracy – at any level from the lowest village gouger to those in the plush comforts of life at the tip of the pile – since it does this with alarming frequency when it or some luminary within it is after money, preferably untraceable.

It is also practised in the wider community, Indonesia-wide, especially when a mobile ATM (aka foreigner) is in play. Occasionally, since contagion is, well, contagious, cases of this affliction present in the foreign community too.

For instance the fractious business of animal welfare in Bali, which is overwhelmingly a matter of foreign interest since local attitudes are determinedly of the Rhett Butler variety (“I don’t give a damn”) where they are not agnostic. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule. Let that be well noted.

This is to the point also because as is well known the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s veterinary clinic was shut down in September on a range of trumped-up and self-serving charges that anywhere else would have a hard time making it into the script of a popular stage farce.

It never does to immediately ascribe malicious intent to reactions. Experience shows it’s far more likely to be idiocy or failure to establish the facts before mouthing off. That said, it is astonishing that the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre, commonly known as BARC, immediately leapt out of its cage to proclaim that since BAWA had been closed everyone should give their money to them instead. And that on Dec. 18 (Diary deadline) it was still doing so.

Moreover, it appears that it has been promoting this disinformation with the assistance of photographs that bear a remarkable resemblance to images owned by BAWA. There may be some personal history behind some of this angst, but that doesn’t matter to the dogs. There are enough sick, abandoned, malnourished canines in Bali to warrant the fulltime attentions of any number of refuges.

A further point: It is BAWA that has runs on the board over Bali’s response to the rabies outbreak that commenced in 2008; on educational programs in the villages aimed at improved living conditions for dogs and the lives of villagers too; on combating the vile dog meat trade and illegal gambling centred around organized dog fights; and much else. So it’s time for a reality check, everyone. Perhaps that might spark a little cooperation for the greater good. Now there’s a thought.

 

Quite a Meowful

Good news is to hand from Elizabeth Henzell at Villa Kitty in Ubud, who reported on Dec. 17 that donations@villakittybali.com, Villa Kitty’s suspended PayPal account, had been restored, verified, and had its funds-in-hand limit lifted. Apparently the powers that be at PayPal had originally said they would close the account. Perhaps the good folk in Omahahahaha, USA, don’t know what a Yayasan is. Here’s a clue: It’s neither a spam/scam computer program nor a Mafia-style crime syndicate.

Elizabeth says: “Thank you again to everyone who offered donations that got us through that week of worry.”

Villa Kitty is a great operation. It’s so good that it is now up to its limit with cats and kittens. That’s consistent with another of Bali’s grand traditions. Anything that actually works is instantly overrun by people fleeing from things that don’t and anyone who offers to help is bowled over in the rush.

The cat refuge needs people to adopt little vaccinated and neutered friends and to give them a good home so there’s room for others who are awaiting their chance for a better life. They do help keep the rats away, too.

There was a benefit evening on Dec. 19 at Mingle in Ubud. It was called Le Chat Noel, which made it irresistible.

 

Aussie Dodgers

Fewer Australians are coming here. That may be good news to the few among us who are incapable of declaring a personal exclusion zone around Jl Padma in Legian on lurch-around-half-naked-night. But it’s not good news overall. Australia is our closest large market. The West Australian capital, Perth, is virtually Bali’s dormitory suburb. For all sorts of reasons we should want to keep it that way. Some of these were outlined in the Diary on Dec. 11.

Foreign tourist arrivals for October 2013 were 266,502 (up 4.3 percent over October 2012’s total of 255,709) and arrivals for the 10 months of the year totalled 2,675,836, up 12.34 percent on the same period in 2012. But the number of Australian visitors in that period (668,902) was 2.11 percent down on Jan-Oct 2012.

They’re still in first place, outnumbering the second-placed Chinese two to one. There are several reasons for the decline. Among them is the fact that Australians – who like to think the English are the whingers – widely believe from in front of their 90cm flat-screen TVs with 50 cables channels pumping out pap at them and fast-fat food at the front door, that their country is up Ordure Creek. It isn’t. Another reason, much more valid, is that places other than Bali are now presenting holiday “experiences” that match or better Bali’s on price.

On the bright side, the long comatose Japanese market is reviving.

 

Ivan Ivanobitch

We hear, anecdotally, of an incident at a popular Bukit area Thai restaurant recently that involved a party of Russians who claimed they had been poisoned by the plate of the day and told the staff to call the police, pending which they wrecked the joint.

If you are a very Volga boatman indeed, one with permafrost for brains and a suddenly blotchy fair-skinned squeeze possessed of DNA that might not be an exact fit with spicy Asian cuisine, it may be easy to become enraged. Cossacks probably swept angrily across the steppes for eons on far lesser excuse. On the other hand, if you think you have been poisoned, it’s possibly better to go to the clinic down the road than to demand that the plods be summoned.

It must have been a potent poison. They returned some days later seeking further compensatory funds – their meal bill had already been waived – and threatened to wreck the place again.

Such people really are more Rouble than they’re worth (boom-tish).

 

The First Noel

This year, for the first time, the annual rite of Carols on Christmas Eve in Nusa Dua was held in Church and combined with Holy Communion. Previously the function has been held in a hotel but this year it was at Bukit Doa International Church, the Protestant Church in the unique complex of five religions at Puja Mandala, popularly known as Temple Hill.

It was a great chance to experience true Christian Christmas fellowship in the Protestant tradition, including Midnight Mass.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see you all in 2014.

 

Hector is on Twitter. He tweets @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 16, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

May The Farce Be With You

We were going to be nice about it all, really we were. APEC, we mean. It was so important to Bali, after all. All those lovely delegates were sure to be so impressed by the event and the island that hosted it that they’d all return later, with their families, for private holidays, thereby boosting the economy by a zillion convertible currency units.

Yes, well, farce has a long and honourable history. Only the Seriously Up-Themselves could possibly be impressed by their mode of transport: preceded, tailed and flanked by siren-sounding, blue-light-flashing and thoroughly rude loudspeaker-equipped police causing chaos and endless delays and pushing lesser mortals off the road. It’s how the ruling classes conduct themselves here but any delegate with the most rudimentary measure of social awareness would have been mortified.

The top three from our Farce List:

THE ban on kites and lasers as aviation hazards during APEC. If they’re hazards to VIP landings and take-offs, they’re hazards to ordinary air travellers too, all the time, not just on special occasions.

THE mass cancellations of airline services (700 of them) because the airport was closed through peak operating hours to accommodate VIP flights.

THE armoured car with fully loaded machine-gunners at each end that we saw trundling down Jl Raya Uluwatu through Jimbaran village escorted by police and military police motorcycles. Thank goodness they didn’t hit a pothole and squeeze a trigger. Had they been sent to get the fish for lunch?

 

Sartorial Splendour

Hector’s helper got into a bit of trouble on his Facebook on the last day of APEC for posting a photo from the ABC website of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arriving at the end-of-event Big Dinner wearing purple Endek. It wasn’t the rig that was being critiqued – Batik and Ikat are wonderful fashion statements and vital elements of Indonesian culture – but the fact that purple just isn’t his colour.

Judging from the photo, in which PM Abbott is looking (smilingly) vaguely uneasy and his wife is looking determinedly anywhere but at his shirt, we think he knows this.

 

Bon Soirée

Hector and Distaff attended one APEC event, which was an American business oriented cocktail function at the Grand Nikko Bali where Jean-Charles Le Coz presides over the cliff-top presence with just the right amount of Gallic flair. We were invited by Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update, with whom we share an interest in the fortunes – misfortunes rather – of Bali’s street dogs. We drank some very pleasant Californian red and chatted with lots of interesting people.

We had to chat. The speeches were off because of the inability of American governmental arrangements to realize that as this is the 21st century they really should move on (and no, we’re not talking about guns or health care). Everyone officially American present, including the US Secretary of Commerce, seemed to be on furlough. In the non-American part of the Anglosphere this is more simply known as leave without pay.

It was interesting getting into the venue. We didn’t have a magic APEC pass, you see. So after a bit of a circus we parked on the road outside and walked in. A chatty infantry corporal, fully armed, escorted us to the sign-in tent. He saw me checking his boots (old military habits die hard) and thereafter called me Sir.

 

Three Hearty Woofs!

An annual event of note took place in Melbourne on Oct. 11 – the Bali Street Dogs appeal night, this year presided over by one of the Diary’s favourite Aussie TV personages, Kerri-Anne Kennerley. The event was at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, as always, and was co-sponsored by Garuda.

Volunteer cheerleader and longstanding Bali hand Sally Rodd reminded us the 2012 appeal raised more than $40,000 to help alleviate the appalling conditions in which most of Bali’s abandoned and urban-feral dogs live.

It’s great to know that some people understand that being Lead Species on Planet Earth confers obligations such as a duty of care towards lesser creatures. Perhaps some further educational literature on that rather broad topic could be usefully read by bureaucrats here.

Anyone interested in the Melbourne end of caring for Bali’s dogs should bookmark www.balistreetdogs.org.au.

 

Sanglah Connection

Kon Vatskalis, who as health minister in the former Northern Territory government was the leading political driver of the 2011 sister relationship between Sanglah and Royal Darwin Hospital, was back here recently to check on progress. He’s now the opposition spokesman on health in the legislature of that Australian territory.

We had dinner with him and his family at La Favela in Seminyak, an occasion hosted by Australia’s consul-general in Bali, Brett Farmer. Vatskalis pronounced himself well satisfied with the way the Darwin-Sanglah link had progressed and tells us he’s also keen to help with the establishment of a new international hospital here and to extend the Darwin link to the public hospital facility in Kupang, West Timor.

He issued a statement on his visit. Among other things it noted this:

“The Sanglah Hospital has completely revamped their emergency department and introduced a triage system that has significantly improved patient care. In addition, the hospital has introduced a Clinical Nurse Educator [and is] the only hospital with such a position in Indonesia.  It has also introduced a hospital school for sick children, modelled on the one in Royal Darwin Hospital.”

It’s these sorts of things that take place largely out of the public gaze that are so valuable, so effective at cementing relationships, and so useful in bringing otherwise unreachable benefits to the Indonesian people.

 

In the Swim

Celia Gregory of the Marine Foundation – she’s the Brit “underwater sculptress” whose polyp-friendly structures augment existing and nascent coral reefs in Bali and the Lombok Gilis – was at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival this year, presenting at a day of free events sponsored by The Body Shop.

The day-long affair (on Oct. 13) was a special addition to this year’s festival program and themed “Our Planet: Through Darkness to Light”. Gregory was joined at Fivelements (it’s on the Ayung River at Banjar Baturning, Mambal) by Rili Djohani of the Coral Triangle Centre, environmental activist and The Body Shop Indonesia CEO Suzy Hutomo, environmental writer Harry Surjadi and orang-utan rehab expert Simon Husson.

It presented “a journey across Bali’s coral reefs and Indonesia’s extraordinary forest and wildlife worlds”.

On Oct. 14, in another festival spin-off, Villa Kitty at Lodtundah staged a special literary and art-oriented day for children. Villa Kitty, which is now a fully fledged Yayasan, is run by that energetic Ubud fixture, Elizabeth Henzell.

 

Swish Dish

We see that snappy photographer Deborah Cayetano, who also runs the innovative Bali’s Best Chefs operation, has added vacation and time management to her skill-set outlined on LinkedIn, where the Diary does its real work. That’s probably a good thing. Her plush dining experiences require a lot of organization. They’re invitation only, the names of other guests are not revealed until all are gathered for the feast, and the location is kept secret until 48 hours before the event.

It’s a great marketing pitch. Award winning chefs from around the world who now live and work in Bali present special menu creations and premium wines are paired by the chef to blend nicely with each course.

The succulent celebrations take place in a luxury holiday villa, on a big yacht, or at an historical location. It’s a nice niche market to aim for and helps promote Bali as more than just a resort of the gulp-guzzle-and-go brigade.

 

In a Great Cause

W Resort and Spa at Seminyak is the venue on Oct. 19 for a Gala Fundraiser in aid of Bali’s new Breast Cancer Support Centre in Jl Dewi Sri, Kuta, which is an initiative of the Bali Pink Ribbon organization.

The evening will feature a four-course dinner by W Resort and Spa Bali’s executive chef Richard Millar (including free-flow wine).  Cocktails begin at 6:30pm. Tickets are Rp1.5 million (US$130). Call (+62) (0)361-8352299 or email balipinkribbon@gmail.com.

 

RIMBA Calling

Marian Carroll of AYANA – whose corporate boosting duties now include the new companion resort hotel RIMBA – is looking forward to the establishment’s grand opening on Nov.  1. It opened (in the soft way that such establishments do worldwide) in time to host APEC delegates and was performing very well when we had breakfast there with Carroll one recent weekend.

Some finishing touches were still being made and bits of it looked a tad To-Do, but the Lobby is spectacular, the breakfast was good, the staff attentive, and it was lovely to be in the midst of an infant forest and surrounded by masses of water.

The grand opening should be spectacular.

 

 Hector tweets @scratchings

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Aug. 21, 2013


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Dancing on an Ethereal Stage

It is always tragic when someone young and full of life is taken from us by that inevitable final caller, death. It is doubly so when the person concerned has been among the brightest talents around. So it is with Bali’s internationally acclaimed contemporary dancer and choreography, Nyoman Sura, who has died aged 37.

     Sura, who was born in the Denpasar village of Kesiman in 1976, was destined by the fates to be an interpretative dancer who dazzled at the very edge of the performance envelope. He failed the entrance exam for an accountancy degree course at Udayana University. So instead he fell back on his childhood attraction to traditional dance and enrolled at the Indonesian Institute of Fine Arts (ISI).

     In 1995, when he was 19, he was awarded Best Choreographer in a Java-Bali dance competition. When he graduated from ISI the next year he remained at the campus but on the faculty. He taught dance and movement.

     An exponent of both traditional and contemporary dance, he later studied at ISI Surakarta (Solo). But he remained committed to Bali traditional dance as his works Sri Tanjung (2009) and Ritus Legong (2002) amply demonstrate.

     He broke very new ground in 2002, however, when he danced nude at the premier of his work Waktu Itu (That Time) in Medan, North Sumatra. He caused a stir nationally, especially among the prudish, institutional and otherwise, but said the dance portrayed man’s transitions from birth to life to death and that being naked reflected the state of man at the end of life when he must face God free of all earthly accessories.

     It is the artist’s lot to be outré. The truly “out there” are dreadfully missed when they leave us.

     Sura is reported to have died of pancreatic cancer, a vicious disease.

     Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery and the weekly online briefing Bali Update wrote a very moving eulogy. It’s on the Web (posted on Aug. 12). You should read it.

 

Silent Night

There was supposed to be an item in the print edition of the diary this time, about jazz singer Edwina Blush’s benefit night for Villa Kitty, the Ubud establishment that does so much for our neglected feline friends.

     Sadly, it had to be pulled just after we’d sent the column along to the Bali Advertiser, for reasons that will shortly become shrilly clear.

     Faced with the difficulty of finding a venue in a rush since other things had complicated the long-settled option, the energetic Edwina did a deal with Rouge, an establishment in Jl Bisma, to stage a night primarily of performance poetry there on the planned date, Aug. 29.

    This plan too bit the dust swiftly. Unbeknown to Ms Blush (and for that matter the Diary) the exotic settlers who inhabit that part of Jl Bisma don’t like the joint. It plays music, you see, being a place of entertainment, and this discommodes the ambiance, or rattles the rattan, or disturbs the peace, or interrupts the evening navel-gazing; or possibly all these things.

    A solution involving the Jazz Café and Sept. 2 has been found. This extravaganza is billed as The Cat Fight Continues (love it!) and the dress code is said to be cat/combat. Slink along and you’ll find things meowing nicely. The view at the Jazz Café is that anyone who thinks Bali is NIMBY-Land is off with the fairies. We agree.

     Blush has two other gigs planned before she heads back to Sydney in early September. The details are below. But first, you should read the original item, for the full flavour of the moment:            

 

Sultry Night

 

Edwina Blush, the seriously sexy Sydney songstress known for bringing out the blushes of many who attend her sultry jazz sessions inadequately briefed, so to speak, is on a mission in Ubud on Aug. 29. She’s performing on behalf of Villa Kitty, the Lodtundah cat refuge for which she is an ambassador, at a benefit being staged at Rouge in Jl Bisma.

      So here’s the drill: Donation on arrival plus any contributions to “kitty” during the night that Blush and crew can squeeze out of you; raffles, door prizes, and auctions; prizes for best dressed (Dress code: Kitty Rouge).

      And the line-up’s definitely not to be missed: Edwina Blush, jazz cabaret vocalist and performance poet; Skid More, comedian; Alexa Bauer; and Mr Richard H Simorangkir, Rouge house pianist.

     Blush performed earlier this month in Ubud. We’ll do our damndest to get along to the Aug. 29 “cat” show, though. So far we’ve managed to miss all her Bali gigs. Can’t have her thinking we’re pussies.

     There’s a sad aspect to this one, by the way. Marcus Page, the Ubud identity who died unexpectedly this month, was a fervent supporter of Villa Kitty and will be missed, by Villa Kitty Ibu-in-Chief Elizabeth Henzell and many others.

     Besides the Jazz Café on Sept. 2, Blush is performing at Il Giardino in Ubud on Sept. 4 and staging her final Bali session of 2013 on Sept. 5 at Oazia in Kerobokan. This will feature an eight-piece band with a full horn section.

    Blow it! Can’t make the 2nd or the 5th, but we’ll get to Il Giardino by hook or by crook.

     

A Sad Mishap

It’s been a bad time for untimely deaths. New Zealand-born Australian surfing legend Allan Byrne – he of the iconic Byrning Spears board brand – died on Aug. 8 of injuries resulting from a motorbike accident on Aug. 2. He was treated at a Jimbaran hospital (for a broken arm) but later collapsed and at another hospital was diagnosed with a skull fracture.

     He had been in Bali for the Rip Curl surf championships.

 

Virtually Certain

We know we’re getting the big APEC jamboree in October. The Bigwigs have already said they’re going to close the airport for extended periods so they can gad about on it and have a gaggle at everyone else’s expense. What we weren’t certain of (actually we still aren’t) is whether Bali will host the annual World Internet Forum (IGF), which is – Was? May be? – scheduled for Nusa Dua on Oct. 22-25.

      There had been, it seems, a “period of uncertainty” over the fate of this particular gabfest, a hiatus that the top flack at the communication and information ministry, Gatot S. Dewa Broto, recently felt confident enough to say was at an end.

      Apparently “several obstacles” had puzzlingly stood in the way of getting the show on the road. These had to do with money. The IGF is budgeted to cost around Rp22 billion – a snip at only US$2.2 million after all – but funding components from Indonesia had been, shall we say, sadly though somewhat familiarly sub-par. IGF organizers raked up Rp9 billion, the communications ministry chipped in Rp2.5 billion, and other Indonesian stakeholders divvied up a dribble. Luckily Google and other interested private concerns have dropped in enough dollars to patch us back into the world.

       Thus Minister Tifatul Sembiring, who is most often seen in his self-appointed role as Censor of the Nation, was able to advise at the eleventh hour that the dog that ran away with his homework had been collared and the paperwork retrieved.

       He said this: “Right now, myself and the ranks of the ministry of communications and information  technology will take whatever action is necessary to immediately complete a Host Country Agreement signed by Indonesia and the UN, as this the most important foundation of the implementation of the IGF 2013.”  In this pronouncement he proved yet again the theory that, for a politician, 46 words will always beat four (“OK. We’ve fixed it.”)

       It’s not entirely clear why 2,500 hot-wired itinerants have to come to Bali to discuss the virtual world they inhabit. Surely if what they say works, works, they could do it all on Skype or something. Never mind. There may be a bonus. Internet speeds here would give any geek a conniption. They may be able to advise how to lift that sorry performance. That would be really good.

 

Oh, I See…

Lion Air, which made a splash in the world news in April when one of its (many) new Boeing 737-800s “landed” rather spectacularly short of the runway at Ngurah Rai airport, frightening the fish in Jimbaran Bay, seems to have a novel PR campaign under way.

     This month another of its lovely new jets ran into some cows while landing at Gorontalo in Sulawesi. We don’t know why there were cows on the runway (elsewhere the mind might boggle over this question, but not in Indonesia). We do know, though, that pilots of large passenger aircraft are generally thought to have a duty of care to the human souls strapped into the seats behind the flight deck that extends to taking care to avoid significant visible obstacles while landing.

      Apparently, the pilots reported seeing dogs on the runway.

      One thing you can count on in Indonesia is a laugh; sometimes it’s a hollow one, but beggars can’t be choosers. This particular little chuckle reminded us of the 1990s Irish TV comedy Father Ted.  On one occasion in that ecclesiastical funfest naive novitiate Fr Dougal McGuile, spotting a herd of cattle grazing in a paddock some distance away, mused aloud that they seemed very small.

      It’s OK to laugh when all you’re doing is watching a sit-com.  When you’re on a plane whose pilots are apparently as challenged as a fictional nincompoop, it’s a little more serious.

 

Get Along!

Mike O’Leary from the ROLE Foundation is expecting a good turn-out for his latest fundraiser, Blues for the Blue, at Tapeo Gastrobar, Kuta Beachwalk, on Aug. 31. It’s in aid of efforts to deal with the 5,000 to 20,000 tons of solid waste and unknown tonnage of liquid waste dumped illegally in Bali every day. As he notes, the people who are responsible for waste management here seem unable to act.

     The Island Sustainability Education Centre is working on long-term solutions to give Balinese and other Indonesians who really care the know-how, skills and assistance to meet this challenge.

     The inaugural Bali Waterman’s awards will honour water sportspeople and adventurers. It’s Rp300K to get into the gig, of which San Miguel Light is a Gold Sponsor.

 

N-Ergized

On Aug. 8 – the date was darkly apposite: Hiroshima day was Aug. 6 and Nagasaki day Aug. 9 – the good folk at The Guardian in Britain twittered: “Fukushima leaks: Japan PM steps in.”

     We do hope his minders made sure he was wearing his yellow wellies.

Hector tweets @scratchings